As we continue our series on alternatives to student loans, we want to talk about the next category: get employer to pay for school.
We really want to help you find each and every way, including the creative, to help you pay for school to avoid as much student loan debt as possible.
The current student loan debt crisis has debilitating effects on today’s worker. In fact, there is currently $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt by 44 million Americans. This amount is $620 billion more than credit card debt. So it is a debt crisis in our era.
Our goal with this series is to help those future students. We will have some life-changing tips and advice for those currently in student loan debt (so watch for those and join our newsletter so you don’t miss it when we get to them), but if you can avoid much of it, perhaps even all of it, then you will avoid one of the most stressful and seemingly career debilitating events that millions face.
There are the common sense things like:
- Simply spend less during college years – we say this because Alex used student loan money for eating out, music, and many other non-necessities in life.
- Save early
- Work summers
And all of these are great ideas because any amount that you can earn and set aside for the college years is less money needed for student loans.
So let’s talk about this next alternative in our series –
#4 is to get employer to pay for school
You might think “how?” if you are jumping right into education out of high school. But do you need to jump right in?
I don’t know how many 18-22 year olds I know (my husband included), that went to college out of high school because that is “just what you do” and yet don’t have the maturity to maximize the education or are really ready yet to decide what they want to do for a career.
What if instead, you jumped into a job, likely a menial position, but work diligently for a short time, to the point that your employer will pay for schooling.
It doesn’t even have to be a job in the field or a company you desire to work for the long-term. However, many large companies and small local companies will either off tuition assistance or just simply pay for your education.
Since many degrees will cross over into a broad range of careers, there are so many options regarding employer-paid tuition, that this is such a smart route to go. You may think that you are starting education and career late in life, but if you work for a year or two first and go to school a couple of years later, but graduate with little to no debt, you will be much further ahead in life and in career and catch up, even surpass much those that jump right into schooling with debt.
Please note that often, you will be required to stay with a job and company for a year or two after the latest financial contribution to your education, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a very short commitment. If you leave before then, you will often be required to payback some or all of your tuition assistance. But sometimes, if the new career opportunity is good enough, it might be worth leaving early and paying back what they gave you. At least you have that flexibility and not forced into a loan for 10-15 years.
How to know if you are getting the right job?
In all honesty, you don’t have to dwell on this for long. If a company of any size or field has an education assistance program, they will likely help pay for the field of study you are desiring. For example, if you want a business or accounting degree, most all companies out there that offer tuition assistance will cover this type of degree. If you are going into something a bit more specialized, this However, we would recommend finding out the details of the tuition assistance program as some companies will only help pay for degrees related to their field. For example, if you work for a law firm, they likely will not pay for a computer science degree. They will likely pay for anything related to the legal field, along with business, marketing and accounting degrees.
But, in the end, if you desire to go into a field like marketing, we would recommend getting the starter job for a marketing firm, even if a place like a law firm, or Walmart, will pay for a marketing degree. The reason why is the additional benefit of you being able to work in the field and environment to see if this is something you truly desire in the first place. The experience to test it out is priceless. So try to get a job in a field you may be interested in.
So that is why we would highly recommend you find a company that matches your desired career.
If you do have a career desire, we would encourage you to find a job within the field you wish to make a career out of. For example, if you wish to make a career out of legal justice or law, consider working for the city/state in the legal justice departments, or for a law office as a receptionist/secretary. If you want to work in technology, consider working as a receptionist/customer service, etc. for a tech company. If you wish to work in the medical field, work your way up by starting as a receptionist/secretary, then begin getting your certifications like CNA and moving up the education and skill rank until you reach your desired level. If you want to get a degree in most liberal arts or business, most all companies that offer tuition assistance programs will pay for education covering these careers.
Find a company with good benefits (especially one that offers tuition assistance)
When you are applying or looking at job applications, you will find the most companies will list their education benefits, along with all of the other benefits, on their websites.
As an example of companies that offer tuition assistance, jobs at companies like:
- Automobile companies
- Large food and goods manufacturing companies (like Unilever and Frito Lay)
- Mobile phone service companies
- Technology companies
- and the list goes on….
And these are the major companies, but there will be countless local and small companies and businesses that will offer these benefits as well. It is not a difficult task to investigate your options in this regard.
Alex has a career in Information Technology. He did go to school right out of high school and obtained a massive amount of student loans for a lower cost, in-state school. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, so got a degree because it sounded like a fun challenge, but it wasn’t in computer science. When he graduated, he got an entry-level job that many of his non-degreed fellow work mates also got. The company he worked for needed IT help. So he taught himself and stepped up. After a couple of years in doing self-taught IT for the company, he decided to get a Master’s in Computer Science and his company paid for every penny of the classes he took. It would have been the same case had he entered the job and followed the same path and his company paid for his Bachelor’s instead, then we could have avoided the $20k in student loan debt for the less than useful Bachelor’s Degree he obtained for the sake of obtaining a degree.
For myself, I wanted to become a paralegal. I fortunately was able to avoid student loan debt as I had scholarships to cover my tuition. I went to a local, low-cost college, which made it much more affordable in the first place. The scholarships I had were both for that school specifically and in general. So between the scholarships I had, I was able to cover the cost of my low-cost tuition, and even some of my books. When I graduated, I began working at a law firm as a paralegal. There was a legal secretary where I worked who began working for the firm as a receptionist right out of high school. The law firm paid for all of her education to move up the ranks. She was only a couple of years older than me, but she was above all other legal secretaries and paralegals in the firm because of her commitment and seniority, thus making more than all of us, even though I had a degree before her and even though I was a paralegal by degree. It was eye-opening. If I had gone to school with student loans, I would be making less than the non-degreed, student-debt-free legal secretary. Her decision to start her career in what many would consider a menial job helped her to advance quickly, advance while earning a living, and advance without having to obtain student loan debt. Ironically, the degreed, legal secretaries took over her menial jobs as she advanced.
This is not only for high paying, technical jobs
You may be thinking that this is all and good for those looking for a high-paying computer job, but what about jobs that the rest of us have? Well, ironically the day after I started this post, Alex shared with me a story about this exact same topic on NPR. Apparently they shared the account of a high schooler that was working as part of an internship at a factory and making $14 per hour. The company had already promised a higher wage upon graduation, offering benefits to additionally pay for his college while working full time for them. Again, this was for a factory-based job and one that did not require a ton of additional skills, so we encourage you to keep looking and see if there is such a company and available positions/internships for your children’s skillset.
An alternative to deeply consider
Now, we share all of this and explain all of this with the thought to deeply consider what you want to do. If you know exactly what you want to do and don’t want to delay, consider one or many of the other alternatives we have been talking about so that you can start your education sooner with no to little student debt.
But if you are going to school for the sake of going because everyone else does, then consider the future impact this decision can have on your life and your career. Student loan debt is no joke and a very stressful situation for many later in life. There is absolutely no shame in taking your time to really decide what you want to do in life, to get your degree in less conventional ways, ways that may ultimately lead to a slower start, but a faster and more secure financial future.
Be sure to read the other articles on 7 Alternatives to Avoid Student Loan Debt
- #1 – How Anyone can find scholarships to pay for college
- #2 – How to use crowdfunding to pay for college
- #3 – Should you get a college degree online?